Email Marketing with phpList and ExpressionEngine

In this day and age where MailChimp and other email marketing services have become the norm, fewer people opt to use their own mailing list software such as phpList. SendGrid and other similar services can be easily integrated with EE through their API and they certainly have their own advantages.

However, there are clients that can’t afford a couple hundred bucks a month, or that couple hundred could be best put toward social media marketing or other mediums.

There are ongoing misconceptions about running your own mailing list software:

  • Your IP/domain will get blacklisted - That could very well happen if you send spam, do not have unsubscribe links, or send emails to people who didn’t sign up. If you send really good content, both the open rate and click rate will be much higher, and folks who don’t want to receive any more emails will simply unsubscribe.

  • MailChimp / Emma / Etc give you higher open/click rates - This is far from the truth. Our clients’ open rates challenge the Email Marketing Benchmarks published by MailChimp.

  • MailChimp / Emma / Etc are easier to use and setup - Very true for the majority of cases. Though not for all. A good example is how we use ExpressionEngine to pull all the tour dates/ticket links from kebmo.com and output HTML formatted for email. Typing 25+ tour dates, locations and ticket links would be time consuming, and makes no sense since the data is already in EE.

Tips for using phpList with ExpressionEngine

  • Download our add-on to ensure that people can easily sign up for your mailing list using phpList on your ExpressionEngine site.
  • Create an HTML template in phpList using a responsive email template such as Salted.
  • If data is to be pulled from your EE site for your newsletters, you can easily create an EE template that pulls the data and spits HTML to be copied and pasted into phpList.

Taking a step further

Depending on your needs, you may want to create a custom Channel/Template that generate the complete email HTML to be sent. Using ExpressionEngine’s flexbility this could be achieved in little time, and will result in a very efficient system to generate emails. This also provides a better user experience than your standard web-based drag and drop editor.

SEO Case Study: Moving Keb’ Mo’s website from WordPress to ExpressionEngine

In late July we migrated Keb’ Mo’s website from WordPress to ExpressionEngine. This was not a redesign, but instead a mirror of the WordPress site. Aside from the mobile menu (which used a WordPress plugin), the only difference is the responsive framework which went from Skeleton to Bootstrap. Skeleton is actually a lighter weight (albeit outdated) framework.

ExpressionEngine had already been powering Keb’s internal assets site; so most of the content needed was already in EE. The majority of the work revolved around changing the HTML for Bootstrap, as well as developing the tour page. And last but not least, instead of using a plugin for a sitemap, we created the sitemap from scratch using a standard EE template ~ which is what we prefer to do for any EE site we develop.

After about 4 weeks of being on ExpressionEngine, the site speed has improved a lot, and visits from organic search have increased significantly as well. We attribute both to proper site building techniques, correct HTML syntax and a sitemap that accurately reflects the site’s content.

Of note: Keb’ Mo’s WordPress site had also been built by us

See the results for yourself!

New website for non-profit Friends of Baxter State Park

The new website for Friends of Baxter State Park is finally here! Designed and developed by Willow Light Studio, the new website features a clean design that is intended to appeal to all generations – all while showcasing the park’s beauty.

On the technical side, this site is driven by ExpressionEngine, and features a responsive design that maintains the clean design for mobile devices. Additionally, the Friends staff is able to fully manage their website themselves, from posting news, trip reports, newsletters to editing every page’s content, and even banner images.

About Friends of Baxter State Park

Friends of Baxter State Park is an independent citizen group with a mission to preserve, support, and enhance the wilderness character of Baxter State Park in the spirit of its founder, Governor Percival Baxter.

About Baxter State Park

Baxter State Park is a 209,644-acre public wilderness area in northern Maine. Former Governor Percival Baxter gave the Park to the people of Maine with the mandate that it remain forever wild.

Check out the new Friends of Baxter State Park Website!

Willow’s Smart URL Title for ExpressionEngine Released

We are excited to release another simple yet effective addon for ExpressionEngine 3. Willow’s Smart URL Title will automatically change the URL Title if a duplicate is found (in the same channel) and let the editor know that it did so.

While a duplicate URL Title is detrimental in most instances, there are times when an entry’s URL title is not used, and some editors find it a nuisance to have the error come up when they are focusing on their awesome writing instead.

You can get this free add-on here on GitHub.

Willow’s Smart URL Titles for ExpressionEngine 3

This addon will check for an existing URL Title in the same channel and automatically append it to avoid errors when saving the entry.

Example, if an existing URL title willow-smart-url-title exists, the addon will change it to willow-smart-url-title-2. It will also increment the number (up to 10) if future entries share the same URL title.

Additionally a message will be displayed under the URL Title field to let the editor know that a duplicate URL was found, and the URL Title was modified to avoid errors.

Requirements

ExpressionEngine 3.0 and above is required.

Installation

Just copy the willow_smart_url_titles folder to your /user/addons folder and activate it in the CPanel.